The Georgia Technology Authority, the statewide technology department, is leading the charge for agencies to migrate their applications to the cloud — offering support with procurement, planning and implementation. But the support doesn’t stop there — in addition to regular “lunch ’n’ learns” and office hours where agency staff can ask questions, they can also get obtain a free Amazon Web Services certification through a partnership between the tech bureau and the Technical College System of Georgia.
“Our approach to cloud migration has been pretty fast-paced. What we’re doing is what traditionally is known as a lift and shift,” Georgia Chief Technology Officer Dmitry Kagansky told StateScoop in an interview. “We have some very real data center needs and real estate reasons why we need to consolidate them. We’ve got to get out of the data center footprint that we’re in today.”
Because the state is moving quickly, there isn’t time to optimize applications and data before moving into the cloud, Kagansky said.
“We’ve started taking everything that’s in the data center and moving it to the cloud like for like,” he said. “We want the agencies to start refactoring and optimizing their environments once they’re in the cloud — that’s where the training comes in.”
The idea of training state employees in cloud technology dates back to early 2020, said Steven Ferguson, the college system’s chief information officer.
“One of the barriers for all agencies — and really all entities, public and private — is talent. In state government, you have long-tenured workers with lots of skill in the technology they’ve had, but state government was lagging behind in its move to the cloud,” Ferguson said. “We wanted to accelerate that, and one of the fastest ways to do that is not to replace your workforce, but bring your workforce along with you.”
He said there’s an advantage of training existing employees because they’re familiar with the state’s systems.
“It’s easier for us to take someone that has mainframe experience and train them up to make them multifaceted than to have a mainframe person and also a cloud person,” Kagansky said.
Georgia adopted a modified version of the college’s Cloud Academy program, tweaking some content to make it more relevant to state employees and offering it in an 8-week hybrid format led by an instructor. The training is specific to the AWS platform, but covers basic skills that would be useful in any hosted environment, Ferguson said. He added that the college system is working to add training for Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.
The first cohort of roughly 20 state employees from more than a dozen agencies completed their AWS training in May, and another cohort is expected to start this fall, Kagansky said. He said the feedback from the staff, who are mostly system administrators, has been encouraging.
“I can tell you from a morale standpoint, they saw it as GTA and the state as a whole investing in them — not that we’re going to go and get a whole new set of cloud people, that we’d rather keep using the people we have in an expanded role,” Kagansky said.
State CIO Shawnzia Thomas told StateScoop she’s hopeful that more training options will be opened up to state employees, particularly in artificial intelligence.
“We are all about investing in our employees,” Thomas said. “We’re all about helping state agencies get what they need to help their constituents. So if we can do this again with another class, we’ll do it. Another skill set, we’ll do that as well.”